Septic System Basics 2018-03-08T18:17:27+00:00

Septic System Basics

Why should I get it pumped?

It’s out there, buried beneath the back yard, constantly working. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, your septic system is the most overlooked and under-valued utility in your home.

Most homeowners don’t give much thought to what happens when waste goes down the drain. If you rely on a septic system, what you don’t know can hurt you. Just like getting the oil changed in your car, preventative maintenance on your septic system can have a large impact on how well it works and how long it lasts. The lack of maintaining your system could result in the system failing which leads to some serious issues.

Two Reasons Maintenance is Important

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The First Reason is Your Family’s Health

In a failing system, the untreated waste water is released into the environment making some very unpleasant odors and a soggy lawn. It could reach the groundwater carrying bacteria and viruses in areas with wells and drinking water sources. Many serious outbreaks have been caused by contaminated drinking water.

The Second Reason is Money

Replacing or repairing a failing septic system can be very expensive. It could cost well over $10,000 to replace a system compared to the minimal yearly cost to have the system routinely pumped and inspected.

The Process

All Plumbing Feeds into the Septic System

A septic system is more than a disposal system, it’s a living ecosystem. All plumbing drains feed into the septic system. Toilets, Showers, Sinks, Dishwashers, & Washing Machines all contribute to the waste that goes into your tank through the house sewer. It passes through the inlet baffle entering the tank. Here is where the breakdown process begins.

The Waste Settles

When sewage enters the septic tank, the heavy solids settle to the bottom of the tank; the lighter solids, fats and greases partially decompose and rise to the surface and form a layer of scum. The solids that have settled to the bottom are attacked by bacteria and form sludge. Septic tanks do not remove bacteria and, therefore, what is discharged cannot be considered safe.

Absorption Field and Seepage Pits

The liquid that is in the middle of the top scum layer and the sludge on the bottom passes through the outlet baffle in into the distribution box. This serves to distribute the flow from the septic tank evenly to the absorption field or seepage pits. It is important that each trench or pit receive an equal amount of flow. This prevents overloading of one part of the system.

Remove The Sludge

There is always going to be liquids in the tank. The sludge on the bottom is what is most important to remove on a frequent basis. If the sludge builds up and reaches the outlet baffle in the tank, problems with clogging, backing up, and system failure will occur.

Definitions

House Sewer – The pipeline connecting the house and the septic tank.

Septic Tank – Untreated liquid household wastes (sewage) will quickly clog your absorption field if not properly treated. The septic tank provides this needed treatment. When sewage enters the septic tank, the heavy solids settle to the bottom of the tank; the lighter solids, fats and greases partially decompose and rise to the surface and form a layer of scum. The solids that have settled to the bottom are attacked by bacteria and form sludge. Septic tanks do not remove bacteria and, therefore, what is discharged cannot be considered safe.

Distribution Box – Serves to distribute the flow from the septic tank evenly to the absorption field or seepage pits. It is important that each trench or pit receive an equal amount of flow. This prevents overloading of one part of the system.

Absorption Field – A system of narrow trenches partially filled with a bed of washed gravel or crushed stone into which perforated or open joint pipe is placed. The discharge from the septic tank is distributed through these pipes into the trenches and surrounding soil. The subsurface absorption field must be properly sized and constructed to assure satisfactory operation and a long life.

Seepage Pit – A covered pit with a perforated or open-jointed lining through which the discharge from the septic tank infiltrates into the surrounding soil. It is generally installed in sandy or gravel-type soils. Like the absorption field, the seepage pit also must be properly sized and constructed. While seepage pits normally require less land area to install, they should be used only where absorption fields are not suitable and well water supplies are not endangered.